The Evolution and Challenges of Child Psychiatry Services in Singapore

Of all Singaporean children in the six to 12 age group, 12.5 per cent demonstrate signs of either emotional or behavioural problems, an academic study published in Singapore Medical Journal in 2007 suggests. Educational and peer pressure, little time being spent with parents (who have to work hard in order to support the family) and internalising have all been identified as common reasons why children may suffer distress and even depression in Singapore.

What is even more revealing is the fact that Singapore has an insufficient number of child psychiatrists, as per a publication that appeared in the reputable Australasian Psychiatry Journal. The evolution of psychology and psychiatry in the city-state has been long and today, some unique challenges will have to be addressed in order to offer children and adolescents better mental health services.

Childhood Psychiatric Problems: Societal and Cultural Causes

If you’re looking for a Singapore psychiatrist to help your child address an emotional or a mental issue, you may find it difficult to identify the right professional. There are several reasons why.

As Singapore was a developing economy, the government had to introduce population control policies numerous times through the years. Eventually, a switch was made towards increasing the birth rate. In 2011, the Singaporean total fertility rate stood at 1.20. In addition, divorce rates grew.  These are demographic factors impacting child development and family dynamics.

Social developments need to also be examined in the very same context. An emphasis on education has been put by the government since the 1990s. English is thought as a primary language in school, followed by a second language requirement consisting of a student’s mother tongue.

Local cultural factors are also at play. These factors could be the blame for a very distinct phenomenon – the prevalence of internalising disorders is nearly two times that of externalising disorders – a factor that makes Singaporean children quite different from their Western counterparts.

The prevalence of depression is approximately two to 2.5 percent among children aged 14 and younger. This group is also susceptible to anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders.

Through the years, experts have observed an increase in the number of Singaporean children exhibiting signs of being stressed out. The demanding educational program is blamed quite often but it’s not the only factor. More and more children are finding themselves incapable of making friends or fitting in. Peer pressure and family problems also lead to stress, anxiety and eventual depression.

Most of the families who seek child counselling have a young person aged 13 to 16 exhibiting signs of anxiety or depression. While such conditions can be addressed by an experienced Singapore psychiatrist or psychologist, it’s crucial for the family to identify the right professional.

The Evolution of Childhood Psychiatry Services

Mental health service providers have to cope with numerous specific challenges that impede the provision of quality assistance to young individuals. A stigma towards mental illness is a powerful contributing factor.

This very stigma keeps many from seeking assistance, even when it becomes obvious that a child or an adolescent is struggling with a psychological or a psychiatric problem.

Difficult access to quality psychiatric services is also a problem. Singapore has only one public psychiatric hospital – the Institute of Mental Health that was founded in 1928. Originally, adolescent mental health services were limited. Eventually, developments occurred in that direction. The Child Guidance Clinic was set up in 1970 and the number of parents seeking assistance gradually started to grow.

Doctors, teachers, police officers and other entities could recommend a child for Child Guidance Clinic treatment. The primary causes of outpatient treatments include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorders and acute stress reactions. Inpatient treatments are necessitated mostly for adjustment disorders, depression and bipolar disorders.

Over the decades, the number of private child psychiatric and psychological clinics has also increased, providing parents with a viable alternative to public healthcare.

The demand for Singapore child psychiatric services is growing, which could be one of the reasons why so many private facilities have been set up lately. But the problem with the training and the qualifications of staff persists. Studies suggest that child psychiatry postgraduate programmes are still severely underdeveloped. In Singapore, there are currently two academic facilities that offer such medical training programmes.

The Ministry of Health has introduced multiple measures through the years to address the gap. A specialised residency programme is one of the innovative measures aimed at providing young psychiatrists with the knowledge and the practical skills needed to treat children and adolescents.

What to Do When in Need of Child Psychiatry Services

If your child is dealing with anxiety, stress, attention deficit disorders or other mental health issues, it will be imperative to seek qualified assistance as soon as possible. The right Singapore mental health clinic will offer a full range of services aimed at assessing the condition and suggesting a personalised treatment approach.

Limited access to mental health services can have dire consequences for a young person who is hurting due to trauma or a psychiatric condition. While dealing with the societal stigma may be a challenge, a change in mentality is required for the sake of young individuals.

Child Counselling facilities like Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic – Psychiatrists and Psychologists for Mental Health in Singapore are attempting to change old perceptions. Adelphi’s team is comprised of experienced and knowledgeable clinicians (both psychologists and psychiatrists) who offer a caring and compassionate approach. Specialty services like art therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, clinical hypnosis, clinical and forensic psychiatry and play therapy for children are available. Through such diversified approaches, our therapists will be capable of identifying the treatment option capable of delivering the best possible outcome.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us today, whether you believe your child needs psychiatric assistance or you have a question about the treatment options. Our team will work hard to put your mind at ease and give you access to the therapeutic approach bound to produce the highest level of improvement.

Article by Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic